Marika Valsamidou: “The first years of education play a vital role in life’s successes” – SOUTHERN SUBURBS


The educational organization International School of Piraeus continues a tradition of more than 100 years, laying strong foundations for the future of children from a very early age.

The history of the International School of Piraeus begins in 1922, when the teacher Marika Petrakis Valsamidou founded a school in Piraeus, with the aim of children learning letters but also training for life and acquiring education. Afterwards, her work was taken over by her children, Niki and Yiannis, who made the school a model, while the family tradition in education was passed on to the third generation, with Marika and Konstantina Valsamidou and Ioannis Dimitrellos (husband of Mrs. Konstantinas Valsamidou) to have fully taken over the school for the last 13 years.

The current owners, having several years of teaching and also experience in administrative positions, have greatly developed and modernized the educational methods of the school and at the same time, they have added two more strong “names” to the organization. In particular, in addition to the International School of Piraeus which has a Kindergarten, Kindergarten and Elementary School, they have two more schools – the International Metropolitan School in Alimos and Argyroupoli, which has a Kindergarten, Kindergarten, Elementary and Middle School, as well as the Kindergarten – Sporty’s International School Kindergarten in Elliniko.

A key feature of all schools is that they provide high quality education by applying the bilingual IB (International Baccalaureate) program, in an encouraging and supportive environment, from the early years. Wanting to get to know their methods a little better, we met Mrs. Marika Valsamidou and the PYP Coordinator of the program, Antonia Dapontis and asked them to talk to us about the first years of education in their schools, the difference in the implementation of the IB between kindergarten, kindergarten and elementary school, as well as the goals they set for the education and development of children.

Ms. Valsamidou can you tell us a little about the Early Years at ISP, IMS and Sporty’s?
Our nurseries and kindergartens are bilingual and international schools, in the sense that they ensure that each child’s nationality and culture are respected. ISP is among the more than 5,600 schools from 159 countries of the world that are members of the International Baccalaureate organization. Our teaching method combines the Greek curriculum with the IB (International Baccalaureate) Program, offering an exploratory approach that combines play with research and knowledge, thus developing skills and inspiring children.
We work with diligence, passion and enthusiasm to build a high-quality educational program that stimulates knowledge, creates good study habits and promotes positive attitudes. The philosophy is based on creating a multicultural school environment, welcoming students from different countries, while students discover and develop their intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills in order to succeed in the modern world. The school creates an environment of continuous research, collaboration and support with high educational standards, enabling students to actively contribute to society in a creative and meaningful way.

What would you say is the difference between your schools and other schools in terms of child learning and development?
The early years of education play a vital role in a person’s life achievements, health and emotional well-being. The quality of a child’s early environmental stimuli and the appropriate experiences at their developmental stages are determining factors in how the “architecture” of their brain develops. We believe that the environment is the second teacher! The classroom teacher “looks ahead” to see what challenges can be set to inspire children’s inquiry and thinking. Our students self-direct their own learning. They can identify problems and use their knowledge to solve them. We help each of our students reach their full potential by implementing the following on a weekly basis:

* We aim to promote not only academic knowledge but also the holistic development of each child.

* Knowing that children learn best through hands-on experiences and active participation, we prioritize messy play and sensory play in our classrooms. We aim to provide a natural environment that encourages curiosity and exploration, where children can learn through discovery and experimentation. We believe that this approach not only leads to a deeper understanding of knowledge, but also fosters creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills that will serve children throughout their lives, thus cultivating citizens of the future.

* Learning Greek and English is a central goal as a bilingual school. In the classroom there is an English-speaking and a Greek-speaking kindergarten teacher, so that the students learn and practice both languages, using a natural approach. This is not only limited to the language class, but is integrated into our every activity and routine.

* We apply differentiated learning. It is an educational approach that aims to adapt teaching and learning to the different needs, abilities and interests of each student. Educators tailor their instructional approach, content, resources, and assessment to meet the unique needs and abilities of each individual student. In essence, this way seeks to create a favorable and interesting educational environment, where each student can develop his full potential.

* We have been implementing the innovative “outdoor classroom” for 11 years, where the lesson is entirely transferred to the forest, i.e. in nature itself.

* We include in the program additional activities with specialized teachers, which include music lessons with the Orff method for musical development, fitness lessons that promote the understanding of various physical activities and the approach to body hygiene, as well as meditation lessons through interesting stories , enhancing stress management and focusing on mental well-being, while promoting the cultivation of student mindfulness. Another exciting activity is creative dance, through which we get to know different styles of dance.

* The program also includes Mini-STEAM and Mini-Robotics activities, which are a great way to introduce young preschoolers to the world of science and technology. They discover the world around them through fun activities that foster curiosity, critical thinking and creativity, preparing them for an interesting and diverse world through games, experiments and constructions. Children are free to explore, create and discover new ideas

Overall our program aims in a fun and engaging way for children to learn through play and inquiry, discovering and developing new skills.

The outdoor classroom is indeed an innovative program. What exactly do children learn through it?
“The best class has its roof only in the sky”- Unknown. Even as a city school we provide our students with large open spaces in nature for outdoor teaching. The outdoor classroom has been implemented for 11 years and takes place once a week for students aged 3-8. Its concept is based on the assumption that children are complex beings and in order to cultivate the child holistically, education must follow the fundamental principle that he learns everywhere and continuously. Children need a wide variety of learning experiences and stimuli in areas such as gross and fine motor skills, social-emotional development, language development and creative expression.
Most activities that can be done indoors can also be done outdoors. A full range of activities takes place, including many traditionally considered ‘internal’. In the outdoor classroom, children can often initiate their own learning experiences and activities, with teachers always supporting them. As for the benefits, they are many. Physically it helps to develop and strengthen the body, promoting a healthy lifestyle, with children breathing fresh air and enjoying a relaxing environment. Mentally, it improves language expression, problem-solving ability and communication skills through various activities and group work, encouraging interest in science and mathematics through connection with nature. Finally, emotionally it creates happy children, enhancing self-esteem and promoting positive relationships in a non-competitive environment, reducing conflict and creating patterns for an active and healthy lifestyle.

Ms. Daponti, tell us a little about the IB PYP for Kindergarten and the benefits of implementing it?
The IB’s PYP (Primary Years Programme) applies to ages 3-12. Children, from an early age, are invited to learn through play – structured, symbolic or free – and research. All the activities they carry out every day encourage the development of their skills, through the cooperation and encouragement of the teachers every step of the way. Our young students utilize their talents, discover new things and learn in an inclusive environment where each child shapes their own personal learning path. Teachers adjust and vary their instructional goals depending on where the children themselves lead them. A key role in this “journey” is the educational environment, inside or outside the classroom, which is rich in stimuli so as to cultivate curiosity and reflection.

And regarding Elementary, what programs do you implement from the core curriculum?
In ISP Primary, the basic curriculum is the PYP (Primary Years Programme) of the IBO / International Baccalaureate Organization, just like for the A and B primary classes of IMS. Our philosophy is common to both schools, as are the core elements of program development, such as research, skills development, our students’ actions and initiatives and the cultivation of IB profiles. Also, a common goal, which also governs our vision, is for our students, within a safe and supportive environment, to learn to respect diversity, to solve problems, to become thinkers, with empathy but also resilience, so that they become active , creative and responsible members of the local and international community.

International School of Piraeus
66-70 Praxitelous Street, Piraeus | Tel. 210 4175580

International Metropolitan School
– Kindergarten – IMS Kindergarten: Kosti Palamas 17-19, Alimos | Tel. 210 9827447
– Primary IMS: Ypsilanti 9, Argyroupoli | Tel. 210 9969866

Sporty’s International School
Poseidonos Ave. 16, Elliniko | Tel. 210 8986268

The article is in Greek

Tags: Marika Valsamidou years education play vital role lifes successes SOUTHERN SUBURBS


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